Michael Gorenstein is CEO at the Cronos Group, which was the first Canadian cannabis grower to trade on the Nasdaq.
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
At Cronos, we are building an industry leading company that will transform the perception of cannabis and responsibly elevate the consumer experience. We are constantly thinking towards the future. We are building a company with a long-term strategic vision while still focusing on creating the building blocks to solve the problems of today.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
I began my career as a M&A lawyer in New York. Many of the clients I advised were large pharmaceutical and alcohol companies, and I was given a front row seat to how they were shaping and constructing the industries they represented. Little did I know or was too sleep-deprived to realize at the time, that it was a great training ground for understanding the complexities of this evolving industry. After my legal days, I joined a hedge fund and one of the industries I saw massive investment opportunity in was cannabis. So I co-founded a cannabis venture fund with one of the partners in the hedge fund (called Gotham Green Partners, now the largest cannabis venture fund) and became consumed with the blossoming cannabis industry. I knew it was an amazing opportunity but as a US investor, but I felt that the constrictive regulatory environment was pushing companies to create businesses that solved short-term problems. We looked at the framework of our Canadian neighbors and saw a great opportunity to build long-term value without the burdens of federal illegality. So we invested in Canada. There is a certain way we think shareholders should be treated and ultimately decided that the best way to achieve this in the cannabis space was to roll up our sleeves and build the business ourselves.
Walk us through a normal day.
There really is no typical day. We are building a business in an industry that is constantly evolving and growing in front of our eyes. Every day looks different and presents a new set of challenges to overcome and opportunities to pursue. As Cronos’ chief executive officer, I take interest in every aspect of the business, from our cultivation technology and API research to our patient experience and newly launched brands. Running such a multi-faceted business makes for a different experience every day.
What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?
Love what you do. If you love what you do, everything comes easier and it doesn’t feel like work. When I was a corporate lawyer, the vacation I dreamed about going on was one where I could do something cool, like run a cannabis company for a week. Since I’ve been running Cronos I haven’t taken a vacation, because I can’t really think of anything else I’d rather do.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
Leveraging the lesser known cannabinoids to create differentiated psychoactive effects.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
A company consists of people, processes and products. And while I’m not one to brag, I am always confident in saying that the team we built at Cronos is second to none. Their experience, energy and drive for success permeates all aspects of the business making Cronos an industry leader.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
There is just not enough time in the day. This industry is not short on great opportunities but we are short on time and bandwidth. We have to be prudent on what we go after and really pick the opportunities we are most passionate about and apply laser focus to them.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
What are you waiting for? We are only in the second inning. This is a once in a multi-generation opportunity and there is still so much blue sky. My advice would be to find something people want and need, make it well and the rest will work out.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
Focus on product quality. This is a market where consumers are vocal, understand quality and could be your greatest champions. At Cronos, we offer hand trimmed, not irradiated dried flower products and terpene rich cannabis oils. Our strategy is to focus on bringing consumers premium product and that creates differentiation among our competitor set.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
Yes, more things will change than will stay the same.
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
Some would say that cannabis has consumed me. It’s my passion and my career.